David McGoldrick and Daniel Crowley scored fine goals to secure us a dominant 2-0 win on the road at Salford City on Friday night.
Crowley played a big part in both, delivering a delightful cross for McGoldrick to nod home in the first half before benefitting from an excellent Sam Austin assist to wrap up the points.
Luke Williams made two changes to the starting XI that earned a creditable draw at MK Dons.
McGoldrick missed out on the trip to Buckinghamshire as a precaution but was fit to face the Ammies, with Aden Baldwin also coming into the starting XI.
Those decisions saw Austin move from attacking midfield to left wing back, with Adam Chicksen and Connell Rawlinson dropping to the bench.
Baldwin lined up on the right of the back three, with Richard Brindley in the middle and Kyle Cameron completing the last line of defence in front of Aidan Stone.
John Bostock and Matt Palmer continued their partnership in midfield, with Aaron Nemane to their right and Crowley joining McGoldrick and Austin in providing support to Macaulay Langstaff.
Fresh from his return from international duty, Malta’s Jodi Jones was deemed fit enough to take his place on the bench – but there was no Tobi Adebayo as he recovered from a sore toe sustained against Wolves Under 21s in Tuesday’s EFL Trophy tie.
On a clear night in Greater Manchester and backed by a sold out away end, we started confidently and quickly crafted the first clear chance. Crowley stole the ball in central midfield and fed Langstaff on the right. His first-time cross found McGoldrick at the back post, but his header went back across goal and just wide of the far post.
Just past the 10-minute mark it was roles reversed. McGoldrick teed up Langstaff with some typically stylish play, flicking it into the number nine’s path. Langstaff was met by a Salford tackle as he let fly from 18 yards and the ball fell back to McGoldrick, but he shot over.
The home side were forced into the first change of the night inside the opening 20 minutes, with Ossama Ashley taken off injured. Conor McAleny replaced the Salford man.
Shortly after Salford enjoyed their first spell of pressure, with the ball hanging around our box. Eventually a deflected shot was comfortably saved by Stone to dispel the danger.
And then, on 37 minutes, we were ahead as a continued period of pressure was rewarded with the opening goal from McGoldrick. Excellent midfield work from central pairing Bostock and Palmer saw the ball find its way to Crowley on the angle of the box and his delightful cross found McGoldrick six yards out to head home past Alex Cairns.
Minutes later a carbon copy was on the cards. Crowley found himself in an identical position and delivered an equally dangerous cross, but Salford cleared away.
The pressure continued. A succession of corners eventually saw a short routine deliver a ball to the back stick for Langstaff, but his header rattled off the bar.
A second didn’t seem far away and Crowley continued to cause Salford all sorts of problems in the inside right position. He had time and space again to deliver a trademark whipped cross on the stroke of half time, but Langstaff was denied a clean header on goal by a Salford clearance.
Since going one up there was only one team likely to add to the scoreline. With five minutes of injury time on the clock, we nearly doubled our lead again with the last action of the half. Fine play from Nemane saw him deliver a dangerous cross and McGoldrick’s initial flick was saved, before Langstaff and Nemane’s efforts were bundled away.
The half-time whistle blew with murmurs of unrest from the home crowd following a dominant opening display from Notts.
The start of the second half saw no change in momentum. Notts - now kicking towards our fans - continued to pile on the pressure and on 55 minutes, two chances fell to Cameron and Palmer. Both left-footed efforts went just over.
But the home side weren’t ready to roll over. They created their best chance of the game on 57 minutes, cutting down our left-hand side. McAleny shot inches wide from a dangerous cross.
The Salford onslaught continued and their number nine Matt Smith should have equalised just past the hour. A fine ball from the right found his head six yards out, but he sent his effort wide. It was a let off.
And moments later, it would prove to be a big miss for Salford. We broke away and the ball found Crowley in space on the edge of the box. He beat one man, steadied himself and then stroked home into the bottom corner in front of the travelling Pies to double the lead.
Williams made his first change of the night following the goal, with Jones replacing Austin on the left flank.
Goalscorer Crowley became the first man in the book on 68 minutes, stopping a dangerous Salford break on the edge of our box. The free-kick came to nothing.
Two up and comfortable, we enjoyed a sustained spell of possession to calm the game down, until Jones burst past his man in the 76th minute. Dragged down by Ethan Ingram, the referee was quick to show a yellow and present us with a dangerous free-kick. Palmer’s whipped effort went just over the bar.
Williams made a number of changes in the closing stages to help see the game out and we remained resolute in possession.
McGoldrick nearly put a cherry on top of a near-faultless performance in the 90th minute, forcing Cairns into a great stop to prevent his volley from making it three.
Nemane was sent off late on for a second bookable offence, having fouled his man on the edge of the box shortly after being booked for taking too long over a throw-in.
But, after Kevin Berkoe followed Nemane down the tunnell after receiving a second yellow for a late challenge on Jones, we saw out the remainder of injury time to secure three excellent points on the road.
STARTING XI: Stone; Cameron, Brindley, Baldwin (Rawlinson 85'); Austin (Jones 65'), Nemane; Bostock (O'Brien 80'), Palmer, McGoldrick, Crowley (Chicksen 85'); Langstaff
UNUSED SUBS: Slocombe, Randall, Morias
BOOKINGS: Crowley 68', O'Brien 82', Nemane 89'
ATTENDANCE: 3,633 (1,245)